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Roberto Fonseca: The worthy heir of Afro-Cuban Jazz

Gabriel Medina Arenas By

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AAJ: You grandmother introduced you to your African ancestry and Yoruba culture, what does she think of your latest album?

RF: She really likes it and is happy with the audience's approval. She always blesses me. When I play live I do a very respectful tribute to my roots. When we do concerts we show people our religious beliefs (Santería), but don't show it like an exotic thing.

AAJ: Do you consider Yo a tribute to Africa and your heritage?

RF: I want the audience to understand that I have a great influence from Africa, but Yo is not an album of African music. I did not record it for marketing purposes, to get big album sales. Its sound is unique. I want to be seen as an artist who likes to break down preconceptions and to explore new sounds. I like risks.

AAJ: To me one of the most intriguing titles of your compositions in Yo is "El soñador está cansado" (The dreamer is worn-out). What is your craziest or more incredible musical dream?

RF: My dream is to find something really crazy, like the smell of music. Something like a perfume.

AAJ: You have performed at world famous jazz festivals like Montreal, Marciac and Vienne. You have also played with acclaimed musicians like Herbie Hancock, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdes and Orlando "Cachaito" López. Who do you dream to perform or record in the future? In which festival or city do you hope to play one day?

RF: I don't dream of playing in a specific jazz festival, because I think that you can also create a harmonious atmosphere and find a very active and responsive audience in small venues and not well-known events. I would love to play in all the jazz festivals of the world, but performing in a famed jazz festival is not a guarantee that you will connect with the people the way you want to, it has happened to me in the past.

AAJ: Who are your greatest musical heroes?

RF: There are many, I really like Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Chucho Valdés.

AAJ: What are you planning after your tour through Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong?

RF: I'm very happy about our tour. I like playing in interesting countries like those. Then from June to August we will tour with Fatoumata Diawara in many European countries. We are very enthusiastic about it, it will be very interesting. Our shows will be an encounter of two different cultures. After that I will start composing my new album in La Havana. There are many surprises, I'm very excited.

AAJ: Can you please tell me when do you plan to record your new album and who will be some of your guests?

RF: We will record it this August. I can't reveal any names, but the musicians are from Cuba, the U.S. and France. We will also have some DJs.

AAJ: When are you coming back to the U.S.?

RF: We will play in November in cities like San Francisco, New York and Chicago, but I don't know the precise dates yet.

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